Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New light shed on river blindness parasite

Date:
January 14, 2011
Source:
University of Liverpool
Summary:
Scientists have found how a parasitic worm in cattle, similar to that which causes river blindness in humans, survives due to bacteria that protect it from the body's immune system.

African women herding livestock. The parasite infects cattle in West and Central Africa and is closely related to the worm that causes river blindness in humans.
Credit: iStockphoto/Klaas Lingbeek- Van Kranen

The team found that a bacterium inside the worm acts as a 'disguise' for the parasite, resulting in the immune system reacting to it in an ineffective way. The bacteria protect the worm from the body's natural defences, but once the bacteria are removed with antibiotics, the immune system responds appropriately, releasing cells, called eosinophils, that kill the worm.

Related Articles


Antibiotics are successful against the parasite, but the long treatment regime means that it has limited use across whole communities. These new findings suggest that if medics could prime the immune system to recognise the worm, a shorter duration of antibiotic treatment may be sufficient to overcome its bacterial defences.

River blindness is caused by black flies that breed in rivers and deposit the larvae of a worm into the person they bite. The infection leads to severe itching of the skin and lesions of the eye which can result in blindness. It affects millions of people in developing countries, particularly in West and Central Africa. A closely related parasite also infects cattle, which causes lumps to appear on the animal's skin but does not cause blindness or other illness.

Dr Ben Makepeace, from the University's Institute of Infection and Global Health, explains: "Our team has already shown that removing the bacteria with antibiotics results in the death of the worm, but until now we were unaware of how the bacteria protected the parasite in the first instance. Antibiotics can rid the parasite of the bacteria, allowing the immune system to respond properly, but it is a long treatment process, lasting up to six weeks.

"Now we can begin to look for a way to 'prime' the body into reacting to the parasite more efficiently. Currently there is no vaccine for river blindness, but if a candidate could be identified this may help boost the immune system ahead of antibiotic treatment and reduce the length of time patients have to take the drug. It is essential that whole communities are cured of the infection and the more we know about the mechanisms the parasite uses to survive in the body, the further we can progress with finding a practical treatment that kills adults worms and not just the larval stages."

The research is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Pfizer Animal Health, and the European Commission. It is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Liverpool. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. B. Adams, A. C. McHardy. The impact of seasonal and year-round transmission regimes on the evolution of influenza A virus. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.2191

Cite This Page:

University of Liverpool. "New light shed on river blindness parasite." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110112110426.htm>.
University of Liverpool. (2011, January 14). New light shed on river blindness parasite. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110112110426.htm
University of Liverpool. "New light shed on river blindness parasite." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110112110426.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) The World Health Organization said on Friday that millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines would start being tested in March. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) An emergency room doctor who recently returned to the city after treating Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the virus. He's quarantined in a hospital. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins